Now I really feel like I can’t breathe. I stand solid, frozen in one place, watching Jax leave the stage. Everyone tries to stop him to chat or to shake his hand, but his steel blue eyes are locked on mine as he pushes forward past them. A voice is saying something over the loud speaker, and I can’t hear it. Every part of me is focused solely on the sexiest, sweetest man I’ve ever known walking straight towards me.
When he reaches me, I still can’t say anything, and I don’t think he can either. We just stand there staring at each other for ages. Jax moves an inch closer and my entire body braces, ready for his touch. “I wrote it last night,” he murmurs with a sexy, wicked grin. “Did you like it?”
I nod, blinking rapidly and trying to think of what to say.
“Well I’ll be a son of a bitch,” a loud, booming voice interrupts us. “Jaxon West and Autumn Brooks as I live and breathe.”
Both of our heads snap to the side in recognition of the owner of that voice. Gus Morris.
My face breaks into a massive grin. I haven’t seen Gus or been to his store in, well, the nearly ten years Jax has been gone. Gus owns and runs a tiny mom and pop grocery store on the outskirts of town. Almost every day for four years, except Sundays, Jax and I visited Gus and bought soda and candy. We rode our bikes until Jax got his driver’s license and his Dad let us take the Caddy out every once in awhile. I can still remember those drives, with oldies stations blaring out of the stereo, warm wind, and holding hands.
“Hi Gus,” I smile. Jax echoes the same behind me.
“I always knew you two would stay together.” He winks and his big, bright red cheeks shine with his smile. “There was always somethin’ special ‘bout you.”
I don’t correct him, and neither does Jax. For that I’m grateful. It’s easier than trying to explain it anyway. He asks us both questions about how we are, how our parents are and if we have any children yet. We oblige him with answers as truthfully as we can, and as we talk with Gus, Jax sneaks his hand into my palm and twines his fingers with mine.
“Well I best be findin’ the missus,” he excuses himself. “This is her favorite song, and she’ll ‘bout kill me if I don’t dance with her. Don’t be strangers now, you hear me?”
“Bye Gus,” I call out, my hand feeling warm against Jax’s. “Should we go find a place to sit for the fireworks?” I turn, not sure of what else to say to him.
“Dance with me,” he says, facing me.
“I hate dancing at things like this,” I look up. “Everyone is watching us.”
Jax sighs. “Autumn, just dance with me and pretend no one else is around. It’s just you and me, this Keith Urban song, the stars, and nothing else.”
I don’t argue with that, and I let him pull me into his chest, wrapping my arms loosely around his neck. Together we move slowly to the music, and it’s like everything I feel is multiplied by a thousand. His heart pounding through his tight white T-shirt, his warm breath against my neck, and the soft but firm way his hands hold me—one hand on my hip and the other around my ribs. My body molds into his, and I feel it. That thing. That magic spark.
Capturing his blues with my browns, my breath catches in my throat, and my lips curl upwards into a smile. Jax grins and snatches one of my arms from around his neck, twirling me around twice before pulling me back into him with my backside pressed against his groin. He captures both of my hands in his, crossing our arms together over my body in an X, pressing the side of his face to my cheek. The heat of his mouth is so close to my skin, I think the second I turn around, his lips will be pressing against mine.
When the song ends, Jax surprises me. He doesn’t kiss me. He doesn’t even try.
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